Ep 2: How to connect with you audience without disrespecting our societal challenge
Right now, as a Social Media Marketer the single most important thing you can do is listen. Tuning into what’s going on around you, within your sector and within social conversations will ensure success during this uncertain period
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Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.
This episode was recorded live on Facebook, on Friday 27th March 2020. CJ explores how to connect with your audience without disrespecting our current societal challenge.
CJ – Today we’re going to look at the topic of how we can stay connected with our audience without falling foul and disrespecting this horrendous situation we’re currently facing as a society right now. I don’t think anyone needs me to detail exactly what’s going on in the world we have some amazing people. But what can you expect from this Facebook live, well we’re going to help you stay connected with your audiences – it’s really tough right now isn’t it; we need to be respectful of what’s going on with Covid-19. We absolutely need to be respectful of the amazing people that are working tirelessly to help us right now. We saw at 8 o’clock last night just how poignant it is that we thank not just the NHS workers who got the applause last night, but care workers. In fact, this morning it was bin day for me, and just seeing the bin being collected it made me realize just what a great nation of wonderful people we’ve got who, when it really matters, they go the extra mile
and they pull together – and that’s what we’re seeing as a nation right now people adapting to a unique environment.
We’re working from home rather than in our offices, we’re faced with challenges have not necessarily had the technology or resources that we’re used to. For example, me not sure if the live was going out correctly or not – but one of the challenges we’ve got is how and should we continue posting content for our audiences. Well the short answer is you absolutely should, but you need to take a fresh look and you need to take a look at the type of content that’s going out.
So, for example if you’re trying to be really salesy right now, you’re just going to frustrate people at a time when there’s a lot of anxious individuals, there’s uncertainty in the world, people are facing income challenges, health issues and worse. It’s not going to take much for somebody to see a piece of content and become, justifiably, a keyboard warrior – if you’re going out and trying to sell to people who don’t want it, it’s just going to frustrate and annoy.
So let’s talk about content – I said you can’t be salesy – there’s an argument whether you should be salesy at all on social and the IF philosophy is you shouldn’t – if you’re gonna post content, it should be helping people it should be aiding a problem or a challenge that they’re facing right now. But if we start talking about sleepless nights as we call them, that’s disrespectful to isn’t it because there are amazing people up and down the country right now who are having a number of sleepless nights because they’re either working to fight this horrendous virus or because their loved ones are affected by this horrendous virus. So, there’s a delicacy that we need to understand and appreciate and there’s an extra filter that we need to apply to our content.
As marketers, and I’m assuming the majority people watching us are social media marketers, you will know how to create content plans, you probably have a strategy in place that answers what you want to achieve as a business and how you want to communicate with audiences. I suspect you probably even had content plans in place for the content that should go on Facebook rather than the content that should go on LinkedIn, perhaps. But like with everything at the moment, these uncertain times, so much goes out window. Content Strategies, content tilts, how we produce content in a unique way that is instantly recognizable to us as a brand – all of that thinking really goes out the window.
So two bits of advice you need to understand for producing content right now
First, you’ve got to tune in to what’s going on in society you’ve got to be respectful about what people are facing. You have to recognize that whether you’re at the sharp end of this, working within the NHS, or whether you’re affected by it, there are issues that are profoundly hurting people right now. We’re missing loved ones were missing colleagues even at the lower end of it, we’re in offices, we can join on video calls but we’re not sharing time with friends, family and beyond those we live with and we’re certainly not sharing time face to face with colleagues are we? We’re frustrated, we feel restricted a little bit in our civil liberty, though we absolutely understand the importance of it, and everyone should be following that all-important government advice, otherwise this is going to go for months and months and months. But the minute we understand that, the minute we recognize that there’s frustration, there’s anxiety, we can start to look at how we get the content in place that’s not going to piss people off, to put it but it crudely and that’s the last thing you want to be doing.
So how can you help?
Well firstly you need to be thinking about how your brand can help people at the moment, so Q&A’s. I’m sure in the tech or the B2B side of it you would have whitepapers, you would have thought leadership pieces that you’ve made, previously put behind a wall – how can you surface some of that content to help
people right now, and how can you be giving away some of that insight for free, because whilst certain businesses – a lot of businesses – and particularly something the freelance workers in particular are really hurting right now with, what what’s going on.
There’s a number of businesses which are still operating and there are a number of businesses that still need to trade and there are customers that still need service, so understanding how you can talk about your propositions is quite key right now.
So, I said about “don’t be salesy” – let’s give you an example of how you could talk Q&A’s. I saw a really good Q&A yesterday actually on Auto Trader, they had Rory Reid – I know he’s a celebrity – Rory was doing an amazing really personal Q&A helping people understand some of the challenges around automotive and the big one at the moment was around MOT’s – is my if my MOT’s up for renewal right now, how do I go about getting it, is there an exception? So, as well as covering that, he covered some fun content, he also answered a whole host of daft questions.
Now the majority of brands don’t have brand ambassadors, particularly in the b2b, in the tech side of it, but you’ve got great knowledgeable people in your business that would be able to answer questions around cybersecurity if you’re a tech brand – at the moment I’m sure that is a big concern for people at home dialling in our home networks – how can they do it more securely, how can they protect their service more. Should and could you create a Q&A around cyber security?
On the consumer side of it, and this is challenging because consumer markets are reliant on bricks and mortar retail as well as online, we know online is continuing for a number of businesses with deliveries going out. If you’re an FMCG brand right now, a toilet paper manufacturer, I would not advocate you producing any content talking about what you could be doing – that would be pretty insensitive given some of the challenges people are having. So there are some scenarios where possibly not talking about things is the right play, but in the main we believe at immediate future keeping your content published and having comms going out is critically important.
I mention Q&A’s – what else can you be doing? Well entertainment and popular culture is a big hit right now. Just ask yourself what’s the piece of content you’ve remembered from the last week to 10 days, and I bet it’s one of the videos that’s been a bit of respite, it’s been like humour, something funny that that stood out. I know my colleagues at IF, we have Instant Messenger tools for remote working, and there’s a chat that we’ve got that’s full of great pieces of content – a woman sarcastically taking a pop at yoga whilst drinking. This one video that I saw the famous BBC News homepage for a number of years world news piece where the young children come rushing into the room – BBC brought him and his family back online this week doing an interview all together. It was moments like that against a bit of respite from all this serious noise that’s going on at the moment it’s a lot of serious advice going out there’s things that we all have to learn at 5 p.m. each day, but are there light-hearted fun things that you can be doing to entertain people, to give people a moment’s respite from all that important serious noise. Popular culture this is bigger than ever, brands were creating content that’s playing into popular culture nostalgic elements, so if your target audience is average age is sort of 40-50s then content from the 80s right now is a real smash hit. Whether you like them or not GWR, Great Western Railway their a proposition is all around the Enid Blyton books, 5, isn’t it, or if you look at the core age group of people who are traveling on away-day adventures it’s the very audience that remembers reading those books as a child. That popular culture element absolutely cuts through – so how can you be creating content that plays to popular culture? Should be a question you ask yourself.
We have a huddle every single morning and at 5:15 every day – don’t why I hesitated it’s the same time every day – and this morning we were talking about the fact that some businesses are having dress-up Friday, they’re getting together the video calls and they’re doing something quirky to entertain their staff, and they’re doing that to actually put a few smiles on faces.
You need to be thinking along the same lines for your customers, for your audiences – how can you put a smile on their face? I recalled a video we shot a couple of years ago – and it was never intended for public use. We bought some new PELI cases – for anyone that does filming equipment or goes online shoots you know the big cases that are protective – and somebody in the office said “can you fit a person in it” and we just happened to have a video camera rolling at the time whilst you tried to do that “person in PELI case” – we used this piece of b-roll in a pitch recently a pitch we won and it got lots of laughter, it was relatable it, was a kind of a daft question that everyone want answered! Now, I’m not advocating that publishing a video of somebody getting into a PELI case is going to win your business in the same way it did us, but right now you should be thinking about the fun content the entertaining content or the popular content that you can put out that helps put a smile on people’s faces, but then you’ve got to lay the filter with the copy and you’ve got to be thinking about the message.
So, I give you a tangible example – there was a brand recently who was talking about how they were wanting to help people find the “opportunity” right now and the audience didn’t like the correlation between opportunity and Covid-19, understandably so, so you need to create a filter within your organization in the same way that you have brand guidelines. How you produce your tone of voice in the same way that
you’ve got your guidelines may produce creativity you now need to be thinking about. What are the guidelines so that you’re not falling foul of million and one issues that could come your way through Covid-19 beyond the atrocities of illness?
At immediate future we create these in PowerPoint – we actually have columns and pillars of what the tenets are that we want to get across what the key words are that we either want to utilize or avoid the thematics that we need to call out on behalf of the business and we make sure the content is either chiming with or mitigating against those.
Whether it’s a content plan to help you proactively develop content or whether it’s a filter to help you avoid falling foul of issues, the single most important thing you can do right now is listen and only social listening technology listening. Are you being smart and listening to what’s going on around you and if you’re being seen to profiteer off of coronavirus, bad things are going to happen, content-wise? If you’re sympathetic to it, if you’re understanding of it and in amongst all of that trying to give people some respite, you are going to do well. One of our customers, I’m very proud to say, is Fujitsu Defence who have worked with the Armed Forces for more than 20 years and they made the smart decision over a week ago, and for disclosure this wasn’t immediate future, that came through from the Defence team, the brilliant Defence team we work with they realised that they wanted to move their content from a point of talking about proposition service to one of thanking all of the service people who are helping right now. I’m sure everyone’s aware of the 20,000 troops that have been deployed to help artistically move things around. There are another 10,000 reservists that have been called in, so they’ve made the play to use their content to just thank people, and guess what people are going to remember? That content they’re gonna remember is Fujitsu being a responsible business.
The polar opposite of that of course is people like Sports Direct, they’ve got it very wrong with some business decisions that they made and then it took them too long to undo that decision and to long will apologize and I’m sure some of the football fans that are maybe watching this that are familiar with Mike Ashley and his undertakings at Newcastle not necessarily surprised to hear that, but I personally thought the apology that came out this morning was too little too late. There are brands that get it wrong, innocently, and we all make mistakes. If you do fall over and make an error, apologize straight away, you’ve learned from it you’ve accepted it, “we got it wrong, we want to apologise and we want to do the right thing”.
There are brands right now that need to be called out for the great things that they’re doing the brilliant guys in immediate future wrote amazing blog last Friday I’m sure check it out it’s on the blog
platform talking about brands right now who are going above and beyond to help and there’s some stuff that springs to mind – BP with the free fuel for health workers, McDonald’s before they closed their doors – what they were offering for health workers there too.
There are some brands right now who are doing some great things that there’s a big thumbs up. You don’t have to go that far, you don’t have to have a CSR play, you don’t have to have a big gesture, a big PR exercise to turn heads. You absolutely can be publishing some pretty simple and straightforward content.
So, let’s give you some tangible advice now – we spoke about the Q&A’s that’s a simple one, figure out ten questions and answers that are frequently framed at you as an organization that will help your customers. How can you answer those – get somebody with a bit of personality that you can put on a Facebook live and hopefully …find somebody that can talk around what those Q&A’s are, what advisory content, what are the five tips right now you would give your customers, and why. So, if you own a gardening brand I would genuinely start thinking about the calorie burn rate around using your tools – if you were doing a half an hour gardening each day to help people. We know there are restrictions and limitations around getting out at the moment, we know people have cabin fever, understandably, so how can those consumer brands help? I’ve loved seeing the cookery content, I’m sure everyone watching is familiar with it over the last week to 10 days it’s quite a “Ready Steady Cook” mentality to creating your own food. That’s a terrible problem that we’ve all faced, isn’t it, we haven’t been able to get the goods we wanted because of lots of people are buying excessively, but I love the fact that led by some brilliant celebrity chefs, they, and even some not so well-known chefs, have stepped forward to help us embrace that “creating a meal from very little”. We’re going to remember that content once Covid has hopefully passed.
So it doesn’t have to be “grand gesture” work, it doesn’t have to be a big insight’s, that’s for sure, but if you want to go the length of, say, a Harvard Business Review – one of my colleagues reliably informed me yesterday – that they’ve made all of their articles free for the duration of the self-isolation period. I thought that was a really good play by Harvard Business Review. Maybe there’s some content that you previously had behind the gate you can offer up. Equally, maybe there’s something fun and daft that you can be doing from all of your past video content or funnies could you edit something together and outtakes real and publish it for no other reason than making people laugh.
You don’t have to be selling right now – in fact you shouldn’t be selling overtly selling right now – if people need your proposition and service they will find you – the purpose of your role right now is to have content out that just “waves” at people, just to let them know that you’re still there and the best way to do that is by helping people. To give them content that’s going to assist them with a challenge or a problem – and I don’t mean grand problems and challenges anything like what our NHS team are facing right now – I mean insignificant challenges and problems that you know here’s a bit of advice that might help you.
If you’re a social media copywriter right now, you probably need to take a step back and think about everything you’ve been taught. For the first time ever, you probably need to take a step back from pithy headlines. You probably need to reflect on what’s going on in in society at the moment, and make sure that
you’re not innocently suggesting something that a second or third person can misinterpret, because there’s some tired people out there right now, there’s anxious people out there right now ,there are people who are justifiably worried about what’s going to be happening employment-wise to them health-wise to them and we need to be respectful of that.
Last piece of advice I would give you – do not be afraid on social media right now to detract from your formal brand guidelines – a lot of the time brand guidelines were written for website. When we say online, they were written for how they’re going to view online or they were produced for, dare I say, print production. Sort of 10-15 years ago, few brands have evolved their brand guidelines for social media. You need to keep in mind, and I know we all know this, but we all forget it – and that’s the size of the device every second person on social is looking through. So if you’re creating content using your brand guidelines for a website on a laptop view, when it gets shrunk down on to it, even that’s for the size of you tilt you phone, right, you’ve got a lot of content going into a very small space. It’s got to be clean, it’s gotta be simple, it’s got to be easy to view. It’s gotta be what we call thumb-stopping.
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